The Kerala High Court has observed that the State Government has a duty to ensure the to ensure the well being, and life and liberty of migrant workers also.
The bench comprising of the Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly said that the state is duty bound to ensure that the employers are providing appropriate shelter to the migrant workers, a clean environment and a healthy living condition with sufficient ventilation, light etc. along with other basic amenities. It added that the State Government should also see that employers are satisfying the requirements in accordance with the prevailing laws with respect to the wages, contribution to welfare funds etc. of the migrant labourers. Adequate measures shall be taken for curbing ill-treatment of the labourers in any manner, by the employers, the bench said.
The bench was considering a Public Interest Litigation suo motu registered by it in 2017 on the basis of observations made in a judgment of a single Judge portraying the pathetic conditions of migrant labourers in the Labour Camps situated within the State of Kerala. Along with this, the Court also considered a PIL filed by Jana Samparka Samithy highlighting the plight of migrant labourers who are being exploited by various builders and other employers in the State.
The court observed thus:
"If any information is received by the State Government and its officials in respect of any ill-treatment of the migrant labourers from any responsible corners, quick action shall be taken for ensuring their well being and life and liberty. It is also made clear that if any of the migrant labourers expressed his intention to go back to his native State, adequate steps shall be taken by the State Government through its Offices to ensure return of such migrant workers subject to the lockdown restrictions and consequential SOPs issued by the respective Governments. So also, the Government shall always be watchful to ensure that no forcible detention are made by the employers of any migrant workers so as to cause any prejudice to the migrants, and if any such action on the part of the employers are noted by the Government, adequate steps shall be taken to initiate appropriate action against such persons."
The bench also observed that is also open to the State to have any appropriate legislation or framing of rules under any attendant laws in regard to the stay and management of the migrants within the State. The Court said that the State and the Authorities can take steps to gather the full details, identity and other information of the migrants even now remaining within the State and those who are returning to the State post pandemic period and consequent on any relaxation of the lockdown restrictions. While disposing the PILs, the bench observed:
We are emphasising the said aspects in the light of several shocking and gruesome crimes committed by the migrants in the past and the said incidents should be taken as an eye opener for ensuring the details of the migrant workers as is specified above. So also in order to tackle such precarious situations the Government is at liberty to issue such circulars or notifications and publish the same through social media and other medias directing such migrants coming to the State to secure a clearance certificate from the jurisdictional Police Station of their residence. We are constrained to say these things because all citizens are entitled to freedom of life and liberty protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. That said all citizens are entitled to lead as of right, a healthy, happy, peaceful and meaningful life. Therefore, any such restrictions insisted upon by the Government can only be said to be reasonable in nature for the advantage of all and betterment of the life of the society as such. The State Government is also obligated and duty bound to take note of the impositions contained under Articles 38, 39, 42 and 43 of the Constitution of India while dealing with the situations in question requisited for the fundamental and fair Governance of the State.
Case name: JANA SAMPARKA SAMITHY vs. STATE OF KERALACase no.: WP(C).No.27148 OF 2015Coram: Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly
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